Our favorite stories covering the future of work and decentralized governance.

Uber grapples with employment rights. Holacracies approach a union with DAOs. A collective corporation sets an example. And IBM’s Red Hat acquisition hints at something bigger.

Open Uber

Last month, the UK’s largest ever march of gig economy workers coincided with Uber’s employment rights appeal, which Uber lost. This was especially significant given the news of Uber Works, an initiative that will see Uber expanding their platform to serve a broader variety of gig work.

Meanwhile, several gig economy platforms are asking for the SEC’s approval to reward platform contributors with equity. This would be a new competitive tool for platforms looking to secure network effects by attracting and retaining gig workers. You can read Uber’s letter to the SEC here.

Sceptics may suggest that this could be a rather cynical salve for Uber’s infamously poor driver retention. While stock options sound good in principle, they can be prohibitively difficult to exercise, often making them carrots dangled in front of employees’ noses which are forever a little out of reach.

Optimists on the other hand may note parallels with the growing sentiment that the most successful cryptocurrencies will be those with effective community ownership and governance. More intriguingly, some are speculating that the launch of Uber Cash could lay the groundwork for their own cryptocurrency. Uber’s executive vision is a future of work without companies; decentralized governance could be the missing key.

DAOs + Holacracy

DAOs are being increasingly linked to holacracy, an organizational system that facilitates autonomy and self-management off-chain.

Holacracy is notoriously hard to scale, requiring a “deep commitment to record-keeping and governance” that blockchains could resolve. You can read more about holacracy here.

The End of Bureaucracy

Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini’s fascinating case study of Haier, the world’s largest appliance manufacturer and autonomous (collective) corporation.

Haier is an open ecosystem of 4,000 micro-enterprises of 10-15 employees each. These micro-enterprises make decisions autonomously, buy each other’s services in an open market, and collaborate through “platforms” that help them to “achieve coordination without centralization.” The result is “zero distance” between customers and employees, which maximizes both Haier’s responsiveness and employees’ potential upside.

Open IBM

The big news last month was IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat for approximately $34B. Ben Thompson frames the move against IBM’s strategic history: they failed to invest in competitive cloud infrastructure, so they needed an infrastructure-agnostic service (Red Hat’s Kubernetes suite) that could erode any lock-in their competitors have secured.

Earlier this year, IBM submitted a patent using smart contracts to track the collective contributions of programmers, “for the purpose of credit, reward, and dispute resolution”. This could lay the foundation for their own open-source governance solution. Is it any coincidence that Red Hat wrote the book on open organizations?

This is all just fun speculation, but it’s exciting to imagine an incumbent like IBM throwing their (Red) hat in the ring.

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